Nooruz is an ancient national festival of the vernal equinox.
Dates: from 14th of March till 22nd of March
This holiday goes back to the very ancient times. Even before the advent of Islam people celebrated this day as the beginning of a new year, the renewal of nature and human being. A few days before the holiday, people cleaned their homes, paid out their debts and forgave all grievances. On holiday people wore fancy dress, had fun and laughed, they organized various games and competitions, sang songs and danced.
And today, in our country Nooruz is celebrated in all its glory. A week before the holiday Kyrgyz people sprout 7 kinds of cereals and by how they grow people judge the future harvest. On the day of the holiday people prepare a lush dastorkon, the night before the holiday festive ritual meal sumalyak is cooked. It is made from sprouted grains of wheat, which are ground and then boiled in a cauldron on cottonseed oil with the addition of flour for 20-24 hours. Small stones are also added to it (which, of course, are not used for food. They are used to reduce the risk of overcooking of sumalyak at the bottom of the cauldron. Also, there is a belief that if you get the stone during the meal, you have to make a secret wish and it will definitely come true). It is believed that sumalyak is needed to be cooked with songs, dances and plays, cheerful refrains. After cooling, the dish is served at the table. It is also believed that this dish gives people physical and spiritual forces.
In the morning on March 21st, people go to their neighbors with a bowl filled with Sumalak, drink tea, talk and make plans for the future.
Day 1. Bishkek (14 March)
Arrival to Bishkek, meeting at the “Manas” airport, Transfer to “Asia Mountains” hotel. Rest.
Today we will go with you on a city tour. You’ll see a big difference in usual Bishkek and festive Bishkek. Today, the city is in its simplest appearance without the ceremonial robes and jewelry. That’s what we will see.
Bishkek is the capital of Kyrgyzstan and the biggest city in the country. It’s a distinctive administrative unit and is a town of the Republican Submission. The very first name of it was Pishpek, then it was called Frunze and only in 1991 it finally got the name it has now – Bishkek . Its population is about 1 million people. The town is located on the north of Kyrgyzstan in Chu valley at the foot of Tian-Shan mountains about 40km from Kyrgyz ridge and about 25km from Kazakh border.
Bishkek has many places for you to see. There are some large museums, the most interesting are: the Historical National museum, the Arts museum and the museum of M.V. Frunze. The center of the town is dappled by the show bills of Opera and Ballet Theater, Russian and Kyrgyz theaters, Bishkek Theater of Drama and National Philharmonic of T.Satylganov.
There are many places reminding people of the Soviet Union period of time. The influence of that epoch is mostly felt in the center where you may still see the row of soviet architecture buildings: Philharmonic, Government building, Historical museum, Victory monument. But you will also be able to see the modern samples of Kyrgyz architecture: Manas monument, monument of Courage, the monuments of akyns (Kyrgyz poets), manaschi (Kyrgyz Manas legend tellers) and local rulers of different times. The interesting fact is that Bishkek is the only town in Central Asia that still has the monument of V. I. Lenin on the central square.
Bishkek remembers its history and will definitely tell it to everybody who wants to visit this small but cozy capital. The town is also known to be the most ecological town of the world due to a lot of green parks keeping the shadow and coolness even on the hottest summer day.
Day 2. Drive to Bokonbaevo village (15 March)
In the morning after breakfast we will drive to the village of Bokonbaevo. On the way we will visit the Historical and Archaeological Complex – Burana Tower.
The Burana Tower (minaret) is located on the site of the ancient city, 90 km from the capital – Bishkek. Historians and archaeologists have proved that the settlement was the capital of the Karakhanid Khanate and was called Balasagun. Balasagun was founded in the mid of 10th century and the Burana Tower is now the central monument of the complex.
After the tour we will stop at the home of local residents for lunch. We will taste national dishes and then continue on through the Boom Gorge into Issyk-Kul valley.
Today we will stop for the night in the village of Bokonbaevo, where we can enjoy dinner and a warm bed.
Day 3. Whole day in Bokonbaevo village (16 March)
What is the ordinary life of the local people, and more specifically how was it many many years ago? That’s what we will see today. As in the jungle half-naked men chasing their prey with a spear, and in Kyrgyzstan in the last century, people were forced to hunt, but invented for this method is easier – falconry. You and I are going to see this amazing view, and also to visit the real Equestrian Games, which were held at each holiday.
We will visit with you shop for the manufacture of felt products, and we will see how the ancient people did without modern tools and machines, hand-finished felt rugs for your home hearth – the yurt, also built without a single nail. And the truth is – where to find in the vast snow-capped mountains, at least one small piece of metal?
Lunch and dinner at the home of local residents, the evening of relaxation and sweet sleep.
Day 4. Drive to Karakol town (17 March)
Today in the morning we will continue our way. We will see the amazing change of landscapes like in kaleidoscope and the first place we are going to visit today is the “Fairy Tale” gorge. The whole originality of the place is the frozen in bizarre forms colorful rocks, like after the eruption. Solid clusters made of limestone and sandstone are bulging from the colorful soil and the place looks like the ruins of ancient castles. The most surprising is that the architect and sculptor of the place is the nature that used only water, sun and wind as instruments. Besides the fancy castles and fairy figures there the structures can also be considered as many-domed churches, and crenellated walls with loopholes; so for example – Sandy fence, which is very much like a “Chinese wall”, stretching for several kilometers along the southern shore of Lake Issyk- Kul. The interesting fact about this place is that there is almost no snow or it melts immediately here, so it creates a very strong contrast between the snow-capped mountains and colorful expanse of “Fairy Tale” gorge.
After this we will go to the hot springs, where we can swim and warm our “young bones.”
Djeti-Oguz gorge by the eastern shore of Issyk-Kul lake is going to be our next stop. The gorge is located 60 km to the west of Karakol on the northern slopes of Terskey-Ala-Too. This is one of the most beautiful places in Kyrgyzstan. For 25 km on both sides of the gorge the fir trees are growing at first merging into small groups and then turning into huge forest mass. The gorge finally becomes a wide Kok-Djayik valley which is totally covered by fir forests up to the very top of the ridge. Over the forest zone (about 3000 m) in the wide valley of about 15 km there are amazing subalpine and alpine meadows called Djailoo.
During the spring and the summer Djeti-Oguz gorge turns into a kind of flower holiday, among which you may see the silver stars of Edelweiss flowers, alpine daisies and asters, and nard (golden root). In the autumn the gorge is being a colorful canvas as it’s covered not only by coniferous forests but also by the leaf trees.
From the northern Karakol and Oguz-Bashi summits’ slopes Archa-Tor and Ailanysh rivers start their flows and at the end combine into Djeti-Oguz river. Today we may have a little hike to a beautiful waterfall.
Next we will drive to the place of our night stay – Karakol town. Accommodation, rest.
Day 5. Karakol town and ski base (18 March)
Karakol is the administrative center of Issyk-Kul valley with the population of about 63 thousand people (2009). It is located 12 km from the Issyk-Kul lake shore in the eastern part of the valley at the foothill of Terskei-Alatoo.
In 1869 captain baron Kaulbars which was given a task to find a good place for the new town came to here and ordered to found the military administrative center on the way of Great Silk Road going from Chu valley to Kashgar. This date became the date of town founding named by the river it stayed on – Karakol.
The town has a strict rectangular layout and is surrounded by garden. It was decided to build a garden city so everyone was ordered to plant trees in front of their houses. The houses looked different in here as well, not like in any other towns of Central Asia. Until 1887 almost every house was built of clay but after the big earthquake this year people started to build wooden houses with porches decorated with rich intricate carvings.
In the city we will visit with you “Holy Trinity Cathedral” and the Dungan mosque, and then go to a ski base “Karakol” to see Lake Issyk-Kul from the height and make colorful pictures of this wonderful corner of our mountainous country. Ski lovers can try their skills on the Kirghiz slopes and get pleasure from the rapid descent. In the evening return to Karakol, dinner and rest.
Day 6. Cholpon-Ata and drive to Tokmok town (19 March)
In the morning we will visit the historical museum of Cholpon-Ata and petrogliphs (stone inscriptions) left on the stones by ancient artists. On the territory of 42 hectares there is a great amount of stones of different size with petrogliphs, which were drawn by the ancient settlers of this territory. To see all the pictures in this open air museum one will need several days, each drawing is very interesting and contains the whole history of ancient people. There are many places like that around Kyrgyzstan and the one in Cholpon-Ata contains pictures of the Bronze Epoch. First tribes to leave their pictures were Andron (II mil. BC.), then Saki who left the pictures of the “animal style” and the very late stone inscriptions are dated by Turkic time (VI-IXc. AC.). The cotton copy of the biggest boulder we may see in the historical-cultural museum in Cholpon-Ata town. The artist put on the canvas which is of the same size as the real stone a herd of mountain goats, a group of hunters and tamed snow leopards. The stone inscriptions you will see have the pictures of leopards, single and pairs of deer, camels, riders which prove the fact that Great Silk Road was once going through these territories.
After that the road will lead us to Tokmok town where we will stay in the local family and get ready to the holiday together.
Day 7. Whole day in the family of locals (20 March)
Our day today will be entirely devoted to the preparation for the holiday Nooruz. We would like to note that the women’s and men’s role in that day will be very different. Following the tradition, our beautiful female half will stay with the family to prepare a special dinner. You’ll learn the secrets of the national cuisine, discover new tastes and learn to prepare delicious Asian sweets. Arriving home, you can easily show off your ability to not only properly prepare dishes of the Kyrgyz people, but also to apply them correctly.
Men’s half will be engaged in a purely man’s job – playing football (soccer). After an exciting game all the men will go to a Russian bath to come to the holiday clean and pleased, and necessarily with a victory.
This night we will not sleep (of course, those who want to miss all the fun, can fall on the bed and sweetly snore), but we do not want to miss anything, right? And if so, then all night we just have to stick to the Kyrgyz ritual and alternately stir the traditional dish Sumalak without giving it a burn. Be prepared to participate in various competitions, sing songs, dance, tell jokes and have fun!
Toward morning we will be able to take a nap, and then the next day will be waiting for us.
Day 8. Visiting friends in the morning and coming back to Bishkek (21 March)
According to the traditions of Kirghiz people in the morning we will take a large bowl with the sacred dish sumalyak and go to visit the neighbors and friends. We will gather at the table, drink tea with mountain herbs, cookies and candies. After lunch we will go back to Bishkek, which had already changed into its festive attire. In the evening we will go to the central square, where a large number of people will gather to celebrate Nooruz holiday. The city will open its arms to you and will let you see it in all its glory.
Day 9. Departure (22 March)
Price: 1000 USD per person!
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